For the business owner who doesn’t have the time to dabble in social media, Facebook has always been a solid set-it-and-forget-it solution. It’s easy to create a Facebook page for a business and then populate it with a few photos, some contact information, and other general info . . . and then leave it. The page is an effective passive strategy—it’s there waiting to be found, and you might even get a few visits to your website from Facebook each month.
But there’s something you should know. Set-it-and-forget-it is not going to make for instant popularity. If you have loftier goals for using social media, that level of performance can be disappointing. Popular Facebook pages—the kind with hundreds of thousands of fans—tend to be built around companies, products, or public figures with a high degree of offline popularity or to experience large, time-sensitive booms in fan population (like the recent spate of “I bet this [random object] can get more fans than [random celebrity]” pages or the “Tautology Club” group based on a joke in the webcomic “xkcd”). For pages that don’t have that level of global popularity to rely on, building a Facebook following that you can activate or convert takes more work and a focus on creating engagement with your fans.
“Engagement” may be the new social media buzzword of 2010—just like “conversation” was last year—but its buzzworthiness is well earned, and its prominence signals a sea of change in the way some people look at how social media can be used to market a business or brand. Instead of a direct marketing channel, social media has become a key tool in customer relations—from answering product questions to providing concierge services. If you have a Facebook page, how are you using it to engage your fans? If you’re not, think about how your business can benefit from a stronger relationship with your most loyal customers.
Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to increase engagement with your customers on Facebook:
- Update regularly. The best way to stay fresh in your fans’ consciousness is to make sure the page gets updated regularly. Link your blog or your Twitter feed to the page if you need to, but set a goal of posting something to your page at least a few times each week. For better results, try to keep track of what time your fans are most active (at least the ones with public timelines) and aim to schedule your own updates for those times. Conventional wisdom is that Facebook has the most activity on weekends. To that end, you can use a social media management app like HootSuite to schedule posts when you’re out of the office.
- Monitor activity. Although Facebook has recently started sending weekly email updates to page admins, tracking activity on a Facebook page is still not as easy as it should be. No notifications get sent when new comments or wall posts appear on the page, so that means tracking them manually. And you do have to track them, because responding to those comments in a timely manner is an important part of keeping fans engaged. The simple act of replying to questions and comments can earn added loyalty and positive word of mouth from a user.
- Promote yourself. Filling your page’s timeline with spam is bad, but it’s okay to encourage fans to visit your website or to read your blog or buy a hot new product. In fact, feel free to do this about 10%–15% of the time, as long as it comes across as organic and authentic. This kind of promotion works both ways—name-drop the Facebook page in your email advertising or place a link to the page on your store’s “thank you” page. In addition to passively linking from your homepage or blog, these links will get served to your audience when they’re already at a point of high engagement.
- Incentivize. People love getting free stuff. To increase engagement, hold a contest among your fans—one that’s easy to participate in. Circulate a Facebook-only coupon to reward that audience (and after the fact, let it slip to the rest of your customers that they missed out by not being a fan).
- Solicit. Sometimes the key to better engagement is asking for it. Let your fans know you’re ready to interact with them. Ask for feedback on specific items.
With 400 million active users and growing, Facebook can be a daunting landscape. Your business is unlikely to have the same fan count as Coca-Cola™ or the Pope, but numbers aren’t what makes a social media effort effective. The real metric you should be monitoring is engagement, however you choose to define it (number of interactions, clickthrough on shared links, conversion rate of links to sales pages, number of mentions, percent of positive sentiment in comments about your brand—any can be a valid measuring stick depending on your goals and strategy). Strive to improve that month over month, and you’ll begin to see the dividends.
This article was published in the March/April 2010 issue of eBiz Insider, the magazine for eCommerce professionals from Web.com.
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